D.T.C. Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union Of India

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Introduction of the Case

“The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for Right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.” 

Margaret Chase Smith

Have you ever wondered that our Constitution makers have given us so many powerful weapons in the form of fundamental rights? Do we even realize that today, if we are living with dignity, it is nothing but an inheritance from our lawmakers? Among all such rights, one of the most crucial is Right to Livelihood. This right is a facet of Article 21 of our Indian Constitution guaranteeing Right to Life and Personal Liberty to all the persons. This Article aims to hit at unreasonableness and arbitrariness as an important part through the case of D.T.C Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union of India. In Olga Tellis & Ors. v. Bombay Municipal Corporation & Ors.[1], also known as the Pavement Dwellers Case, the Apex Court held that the Right to Life exclusively includes the right to livelihood but also stated that the Constitution does not completely bar anyone from life or personal liberty. In many cases, the judiciary has interpreted that the liberty of an individual ends where the freedom of another commences.

Another important article is Article 14 of the Constitution. Arbitrariness occurs when any classification is made without a reason.  Here we will discuss the concept of certain fundamental rights through case law. 

Facts of the Case

In D.T.C Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union of India case, the petition is filed by Delhi Transport Corporation Mazdoor Congress and four other petitioners under Article 226[3]. This petition involves a sequence of problems, so the factual matrix is as follows:

While the service of certain employees were terminated, the petitioners were working for the following designations-

  1. Petitioner no. 1 was a recognised trade union of workers employed under Delhi Transport Corporation
  2. Petitioner no. 2 was working as a conductor since 1969
  3. Petitioner no. 3 was working as an A.T.I. since 1970
  4. Petitioner no. 4 was working as a Driver since 1974
  5. Petitioner no. 5 was on probation. 

All the petitioners were members of Petitioner no.1 and were permanent employees of D.T.C Mazdoor.

On February 15, 1985, D.T.C. terminated the services of the driver and the conductor. All the other employees opposed this action of the corporation. These workers demanded the restoration of the two workers. However, the corporation did not pay heed to their reaction, resulting in spreading of agitation in various depots of D.T.C. and resulting in a lockout. The main reason for such turmoil was the operation of Regulation 9 (a) and (b) of the D.R.T.A. Authority Act, 1950. 

The services of more than 200 workers, working as probationers/daily wagers were terminated by D.T.C. This termination was done by invoking Regulation 9 (a) of the said Act. So, petitioner no. 5 was attracted by this provision. The order dated June 4, 1985, terminated the services of petitioner no. 2 to 4, who were permanent employees. Further, this termination of perpetual employees was done by invoking the provision of Regulation 9 (b). These two regulations were framed in exercise of powers conferred by Section 53 of the Delhi Road Transport Authority, ACT, 1950 which enables the formulation of rules. 

Issues of the D.T.C Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union of India

The writ petition filed by the workers under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, raising three issues which are mentioned below:

  • Whether this writ under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution is maintainable in this court of law?
  • Whether Regulation 9 (a) and (b) of D.R.T.A. (Conditions of Appointment and Service) Regulations, 1952 is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India?
  • Whether the termination of services of petitioner no. 2 to 4 are valid or not?

Arguments of the Petitioner

The learned counsel for the petitioners was Mr. V.P. Singh, and he raised the following contentions on behalf of the petitioners:

  1. That since the petition has been filed, the notices issued by Regulation 9 (a) by D.T.C., stating the termination of probationary employees like petitioner no. 5 has been revoked and the persons attracted by this regulation have been restored to their position. 
  2. That such restoration has not left any person disgruntled with Regulation 9 (a), and now they are in favour of all the decisions taken by D.T.C. Thus, post this move by D.T.C., pondering on the validity of Regulation 9 (a) does not arise. 
  3. That petitioners 2, 3 and 4 have still not been reinstated by D.T.C.
  4. That Regulation 9 (b) is ultra vires, so the termination of petitioner 2 to 4 should be rescinded.  
  5. That this provision of the said Act gives absolute, uninhibited, and arbitrary powers to the management to terminate the services of permanent or temporary employees. 
  6. That giving of such arbitrary power is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. This was contended by relying on some precedents like Workmen of Hindustan Steel Ltd. & Anr v. Hindustan Steel Ltd. & Ors[4] and West Bengal State Electricity Board & Ors. v. Desh Bandhu Ghosh & Ors[5].

Arguments of the Respondent 

The Counsel on behalf of the respondents was Mr Chandrasekharan. He contended the following points, favouring the respondents: 

  1. That the validity of Regulation 9 (b) has been already tested by the Hon’ble Court and the Court has already upheld the same.
  2. That the Court need not allow the petitioners to challenge this Regulation in this proceeding. 
  3. That the contentions of the petitioner’s learned counsel should not be accepted and gave the reference of Delhi Transport Undertaking v. Balbir Saran Goel[6]. In this case, the services of employees were terminated under Regulation 9 (b) after paying one month’s salary in lieu of notice. This termination was challenged in this case. In this case, there was no challenge to the validity of the Regulation.
  4. That the Apex Court did not examine that the Regulation was ultra vires of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. 
  5. That the Court need not exercise extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 as an alternative remedy was available in the form of Industrial Tribunal Act as the petitioners would come under the definition of ‘workmen’ under this Act. 
  6. That the respondents were deprived of an opportunity of evidence before the Industrial Tribunal to satisfy the Tribunal that the termination of the services of the petitioners were correct.  

Judgement of D.T.C Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union of India

In this case, the bench denied the contention of the respondent that the Industrial Tribunal would have no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon this Regulation 9 (b). 

 The issue-wise judgment has been mentioned herewith:

Whether this writ under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution is maintainable in this Court of law?

On this issue, the Court ordered that the petitioners did not have an alternate remedy, except approaching this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to challenge the validity of Regulation 9 (b) of the said Act. The following reasoning accompanied the Court’s pronouncement:

  1. The power to issue a notice under Regulation 9 (b) does not have a mere supporting record or evidence to show that it had been exercised to terminate the services of the petitioner following misconduct. 
  2. If such powers were exercised in pursuance of misconduct, then the same would be exercised by D.T.C. under Regulation 9 (a) (ii) and not 9 (b) of D.R.T.A. (Conditions of Appointment and Service) Regulations, 1952.
  3. The petitioners stated that the termination of services was in the public interest, public good and their unsuitability. So, if Regulation 9 (b) is valid, then only the services of the petitioners can be terminated.
  4. The contention of the respondents that the petitioners have an alternative remedy is incorrect. The Industrial Tribunal is not empowered to adjudicate the validity of Regulation 9 (b), and petitioners should not be asked to approach this forum. 

Whether the termination of services of petitioner no. 2 to 4 are valid or not?

On this issue, the Court held that Regulation 9 (b) gives absolute power to D.T.C. to terminate the services of any of the employees working for them. Thus, the said Regulation 9 (b) provides absolute power for D.T.C. to terminate the services of the petitioners 2, 3 and 4, instead of being permanent employees by giving a one month prior notice or pay in lieu. They are not bound to disclose the reasons for termination. The employees do not have any right, pertaining to an opportunity of being heard as to why their services have been terminated. The Court referred to Workmen of Hindustan Steel Limited case[7]

Whether Regulation 9 (a) and (b) of D.R.T.A. (Conditions of Appointment and Service) Regulations, 1952 is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India?

On this issue, the Apex Court held that the respondents had not been able to distinguish between Regulation 9 (b) and other ultra vires provisions. This Regulation gives unconstrained power to the management to terminate the services of an employee or a workman or supervisor, whether permanent or temporary. This power under Regulation 9 (b) is such that it gives arbitrary power to a party to terminate any employee without giving an opportunity to explain their part. The Court further held that such an arbitrary provision is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and must be struck down.  

Thus, the Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed the writ petition and declared Regulation 9 (b) to be illegal and ultra vires. Therefore, the Court quashed the termination of services of petitioners 2 to 4 and declared the petitioners deemed to be in service of D.T.C. and these employees shall be entitled to back wages and all other benefits by way of annual increment, which they would have been entitled to in case their services were not terminated. The Court further in D.T.C Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union of India directed D.T.C. to pay the back wages and other benefits within three months from the date of judgment to the petitioners. 

Analysis of the D.T.C Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union of India

The bench, in this case, has been unbiased and accurate. The judgment of this case is significant as it has served its purpose. In this case, the writ petition was filed for the conditions of Delhi road transport and the allegations on the authority for arbitrary termination. The decision of the Court in this case has helped many employees who were unnecessarily terminated from their services. The Court has appropriately struck down the arbitrary regulation which could terminate as many employees without any reasonable nexus. The interpretative philosophy of the Supreme Court was result-oriented and did not lack in reasoning of the issues. Thus, the judgement was precise, perceptive, and practicable.  

Conclusion

The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  

 Martin Luther King, Jr.

Right to Life is the fundamental right of every citizen of India, and no one can violate these rights. If these fundamental rights are violated, we have many provisions enlisted in our Constitution to claim such infringement. Our Constitution is regarded as the Magna Carta. Our judiciary is one of the most crucial parts of this Magna Carta as it removes the flaws and has evolved over time. It is often regarded as the guardian of the Constitution and acts as an umpire between the States and the Centre. Our Constitution makes every person equal, irrespective of their caste, religion, or sex. Thus, the judicial system of India is enormous and provides provisions that protect the individuals from arbitrary actions against them. This system cautions people that they will have to face the consequences of any wrong done by them and will even be protected by law if any wrong is done against them. Thus, the main aim of our legal system is access to justice for all persons. 


[1] Olga Tellis & Ors. v. Bombay Municipal Corporation & Ors., 

[2] D.T.C. Mazdoor Congress & Ors. v. Union Of India & Ors. , 1991 AIR 101.

[3] The Constitution of India, 1949, Article 226.

[4] 1985 AIR 251.

[5] 1985 AIR 722.

[6] 1971 AIR 836.

[7] 1985 AIR 251.

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